You wore scarlet and gold, a Red Raider not a Little Lion, but we still cheered for you- or maybe at you-
because you were one of us, more here than there, migrant with a visa from a no hotel hick town thirteen miles away.
We cruised top down in your fin-tailed Ford hurling eggs at college students ”Light my Fire” blaring from the radio, you cackling hysterically
as I stood, dropped drawers and hung a moon—so wicked to whomp on the gas, the blacktop blistering my bare butt.
Yours was named ‘Winston’ like the cigarette because “Winston tastes good,” mine was ‘Howie,’ a howitzer sadly never more than test-fired,
while poor Tom, poor nihilistic Tom, was resigned to dying a virgin; his melancholy member’s moniker— ‘Nothing.’
Malibu’s women and waves, just like our pale, pudgy pre-pubescent bodies couldn’t compete with toned tanned Baywatch torsos, as we sadly learned
retching Fizzies and peanut butter on a road trip to Virginia Beach, virgin voyeurs genuflecting before the sacred “itsy bitsy teeny weeny
yellow polka dot bikini”—that turned our pickles to zucchini…but we could only ogle and drool, stammer and stutter, gape at those golden goddesses.
You chose a party school, majored in tailgating, tokes, and toga parties, toasted your 21st for 60 straight midnights on the same bar stool,
that stool embossed 30 years later with a brass plaque saluting your laborious lifelong ascent from Rolling Rocks to Chivas Regal rocks,
the plaque indelibly imprinted on your burgeoning buttocks as you returned year after year to its warm if cheeky embrace.
I entered a military school, Vietnam prep for patriots—parades spitshined shoes and punishment tours—but your fraternity brothers still
welcomed us barbaric buzz heads to your weekend bacchanalia whenever we could escape Patton’s Prison, the Eisenhower Tower, that is until
the hit show “Graduates into Grunts’ made the mellow Maui Wowie in Montreal your mandatory move, travel courtesy of Jefferson Airplane, but
ka-boom—reality ruptured your dreamscape soon enough: Marriage, two kids, twelve relocations in twenty years climbing the corporate cargo net
created cracks in the conjugal cocoon but neither you nor she ever let the growing divide between you, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart,”
puncture the protective bubble you built around them, mom’s and dad’s mutual indisputable masterpieces, even as you
set your sights on Fortune 500 heights first with a friggin’ fracking company drinking the company kool-aid, ablution for all the pollution,
then bingo a big buyout and you boogied on to biotech even though you had failed biology in Mrs. Butler’s seventh grade class,
the less you knew the better because your job was to pump out pablum to politicians and the public, persuade people pyrite was gold, rocketing you
into the realm of corporate jets and five-star restaurants, hovering between humility and hubris, sometimes an avatar
sometimes an asshole but regardless you never really believed you belonged ‘there’ or knew if you even wanted to be ‘there,’
any further introspection bulldozed by a greed is good America as you pledged allegiance to LeverageLand- think Legoland on quicksand-
retired to that gated lakefront enclave long lusted after, petrified of being found out, exposed as a fraud, an escapee from the working class.
Ensconced among the elite of corporate Camelot, with time and Benjamins to burn, you borrowed and borrowed and borrowed,
spun the wheel again and again and again, Russian roulette with bullets in every chamber, just another naive neophyte
nibbled then swallowed whole by hedge fund hammerheads and barracuda bankers until the lords of LeverageLand slammed the gates behind you.
You were penniless, too old to be considered for the jobs that needed you, but the pit bosses of life’s casino were not yet finished,
malignant goons tumouring through your brain until nothing was left except memories of what had been, the crushing certitude of what would never be.
The last time I saw you was Thanksgiving at your daughter’s house, blanketed pale and shivering on the sofa, fading in and out,
encircled by friends and family ostensibly focused on football, turkey and its trimmings, the endless chatter no one heard,
but when my dreaded moment to leave arrived, you somehow struggled to your feet, staggered, then smothered me in your blanket,
an endless hug still too short, both a panicked plea and an unuttered promise that someday we’d fly that fin-tailed Ford again,
hair flowing in the wind, your more pathetic than plaintive teenage tenor warbling “Do you love me surfer girl,”… and my bare butt riding shotgun
Walt Shulits is a retired bond market professional and lifelong paddling fanatic-canoe, sea kayak, outrigger canoe and surf ski-who stumbled upon writing poetry while searching for a non-sport activity that would give him the same sense of living in the moment as paddling. Residing in Provence, France he spends as much time as possible in his beloved Hawaii. He tries to write poems for the multitudes who find poetry as incomprehensible as Sanskrit or as unappealing as mountain oysters.